First things first, South Indian food is not limited to dosa, idli, appams and stew. Each state has their own wonderfully rich, and diverse cuisine rooted in their specific traditions and culture.
Even within the state, there are a myriad ways to cook the same dish. For the longest time, western influence has reigned supreme (just take a look at how many Domino’s, KFCs, and McDonalds have taken over your neighbourhood). Over the last few years, however, regional cuisine is fast becoming a movement, thanks to the advent of social media and access to technology. It’s still too soon to hope that yet another burger, pizza or pasta joint won’t pop up but hey, one can dream!
Case in point – Ashwin Iyer, also known as Magic Plateman! If that’s his superhero alter ego, you won’t find much argument from me. An engineer by profession, he moonlights as a chef, food stylist and food photographer; and dons all capes with equal ease. He could well be single-handedly responsible for getting the world to look at Karnataka cuisine in a new (and lustful) light. Take a look at his raw mango gojju – beautifully textured, immaculately plated and ripe for the tasting.
Or the gourmet holige he whipped up for Ugadi! I have spent a lifetime of eating this at home – my mother is an excellent cook. But it has never looked like Iyer’s. While this is not a problem for me, I do believe that we eat with our eyes first; especially in the age of Instagram.
And home chefs like Iyer can change perceptions of regional Indian cuisine, tempting people from across the country to sample the many delicacies that Karnataka has to offer. Because, let’s face it, beauty adds authenticity to most experiences.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that food is art because food is, at best, a medium. But then I look at an akki roti fashioned to resemble a coracle or a modern interpretation of the deceptively simple yellu bella as a perfect quenelle of ice-cream and I’m forced to reconsider my position on the subject.